Exploring the Jurassic Coast

If you have never heard of the United Kingdom’s Jurassic Coast, the name probably conjures thoughts of dinosaurs, tropical islands, family fun and the prospect of seeing a new Steven Spielberg film featuring realistic-looking dinosaurs.

The first thing to realize is the Jurassic Coast was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. To even be considered for the designation of a World Heritage site, a location must clearly prove its outstanding cultural value. The fight to receive the status for the living history monument kicked off in 1994. Status was eventually granted due to the coast’s bare evidence of world history.

Billing itself as a “walk through time,” the Jurassic Coast offers guests the opportunity to experience millions of years of history as they walk through a perpetually evolving environment. The stunning aesthetics of the coast are underscored by the ability to find fossils along the beach, making the coast an excellent place for a family vacation. The coast runs from Exmouth to Swanage and contains more than five towns and villages.

The Jurassic Coast’s natural history and its willingness to share that history with guests is only the beginning of the offerings the coast has to offer families.

The first thing you will want to plan is for good weather. You cannot plan for specific weather, but avoiding rain and humidity will go a long way for families looking to revel in the nature-centric offerings of the Jurassic Coast. If you want to stay close by, there are a number of accommodation options for travelers.

Families would do well to stay at the Heights Hotel, located in Dorset, right in the heart of the Jurassic Coast. The hotel offers a few different kinds of rooms to cater to any budget.

Coastal walk with the family in Dorset

Coastal walk with the family in Dorset © Andrew Roland | Dreamstime.com

When I mentioned earlier the Jurassic Coast is filled with things for families to do outside, that was no understatement. Families can enjoy active activities, cultural activities and even some laid-back quality time.

If your family wants to experience the coast on your own, consider downloading a map before striking out. Follow standard safety rules and watch the kids to keep them from climbing rocks and getting too near cliffs. In the summer, popular paths can get crowded, so Jurassic Coast officials recommend planning for crowds to make the most of your time on the trails.

Travelers can also take guided walks, often hosted by local museums and tourist centers.

Speaking of museums, there are a number of them along the Jurassic Coast. Fairlynch Museum focuses on the red cliffs of Budleigh Salterton; Sidmouth Museum focuses on the Triassic period; and the Honiton Museum is more inland and features younger fossils. The list of visitor centers, attractions and museums suitable for the entire family goes on and on.

Take some time during your visit to revel in the ancient history of the area. One of the reasons the coast received its distinctive name are the fossils littering the beaches. These fossils are up for the grabs for visitors, as long as guests practice safe and responsible fossil hunting. Jurassic Coast officials ask that visitors collect at specific locations deemed safe. Exploring the coast and finding fossils of ancient creatures has the potential to bring any family together in a learning-rich environment.

According to Jurassic coast officials, fossils are so plentiful because they erode from the cliffs and are knocked loose. If no one collects them, pounding waves will destroy them.

A visit to the Jurassic Coast also has the potential to instill the importance of environmental conservation in every member of the family. When kids see fossils and make the connection between these relics of the past and preserving the future, it is possible they come away from a trip to the Jurassic Coast with a new perspective.